What We Do
Working as an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, the State Bar oversees all activities required for admitting attorneys to the practice of law in the nation’s most populous state. The State Bar develops, administers, and grades the California Bar Examination and conducts moral character investigations required for admission.
California offers more pathways to the law than any other state. The agency promulgates rules for several admissions pathways beyond the traditional, nationally accredited schools.
Designed to broaden access to the legal profession, these multiple pathways also create unique challenges for the State Bar’s admissions system.
Bar exam applicants tested
Applicants granted testing accommodations
Moral character applications completed
New attorneys admitted
Analyzing the relevance and fairness of the bar exam
California’s high cut score has been the source of ongoing debate, particularly with respect to its potential impact on diversity in the legal profession and access to reasonably priced legal services. The State Bar has undertaken several studies to assess the relevance and fairness of the bar exam in recent years. One of the most significant of these was the first-ever California Attorney Practice Analysis (CAPA), which collected detailed data from more than 16,000 attorneys on the skills needed to perform routine tasks, particularly by new attorneys. Completed in 2019, CAPA provides an unprecedented foundation for future reforms of the California bar exam.
Expanding accreditation to online learning
In 2019, the State Bar became the first jurisdiction nationwide to adopt rules to accredit degree programs offered up to 100 percent online. Accrediting fully online programs will provide greater flexibility and access to students whose options were previously limited to registered fixed-facility or correspondence law schools. Several schools are currently undergoing accreditation for online programs.
Investing in infrastructure
Moving another major function of the State Bar off of a legacy information technology platform, the new Admissions Information Management System went live in February 2019. The system provides a unified online applicant portal for all routine transactions and communications throughout the entire admissions process. After an initial adjustment period required for all large systems implementations, the platform is starting to show its promise of a more efficient interface for all users: applicants, law schools, exam graders, and State Bar staff.
Increasing engagement with law schools
To enhance the ways in which the State Bar engages with law schools, in 2019 the agency created two new committees: the Law School Council, with membership from ABA-approved schools, and the Committee of State Bar Accredited and Registered Schools. Regular meetings and a new quarterly e-newsletter for law school deans have increased the regularity of dialogue, feedback, and collaboration.